The Age; Carolyn Webb; June 16th 2011
BRONSON the Great Dane wound up at Pets Haven animal shelter in Woodend because he grew too big for his owner’s family.
Within a month, a shelter worker was able to offer him a loving home, but all too many unwanted pets are not so lucky. Animal welfare sources estimate that about 250,000 cats and dogs are put down in Australia every year. They say the large numbers euthanised in Victoria would be drastically reduced with changes to regulations.
The current state law says that after 28 days, animals in a shelter or pound must be euthanased or permanently removed. Animal welfare bodies, including the RSPCA, have overwhelmingly backed the state government’s pledge to scrap this rule.
Pets Haven owner Trish Burke said it was a ”ridiculous” law. ”No other state has it. I go out and save an amazing cat or dog, we look after it for 28 days, there’s nothing wrong with it, and we have to put it down. It’s not because we don’t have the facilities or room to hold them; it’s the law, you have to abide by law.”
She said it was grossly unfair that puppy farms and pet shops could keep an animal for an unlimited time.
Pets Haven is among 538 industry groups, animal welfare bodies and individuals who have made submissions to the Agriculture Department’s overhaul of the code of practice for the management of animals in shelters and pounds.
Many of the groups asked for improved foster-care rules. The state government has proposed a 12-week limit for animals in foster care before they go back to a shelter. Ms Burke said the current regime of no limit should stay because stress, illness and problems rehousing can mean it is beneficial to foster animals for longer.
Dr Carole Webb from the Cat Protection Society said there should be an accreditation scheme for community foster carers, and cats and kittens with mild medical conditions should be able to be fostered until well.
Dr Graeme Smith of the Lost Dogs Home said dogs awaiting adoption should be allowed to be exercised off the shelter’s property. Strays should be allowed to socialise in pens with other strays to avoid distress, and kittens and puppies should be able to be mixed.
”At the moment if you get two dogs you know are mates you’re not supposed to have them in the same kennel. It can cause distress; we should be able to house them together so long as they are vaccinated.”